In a less advanced time in world history, I'd have to start this post by making the "bold" claim that I unabashedly appreciate Anne Hathaway's whole deal. I love the enthusiasm, I love the commitment, I love the theater kid energy. You know, the whole "damn the haters; I love 'er!" But we, as a society, have moved beyond this facile kind of disclaimer. It's actually not counter-cultural to like Anne Hathaway anymore. Indeed--here's a bold claim--I don't think it actually ever was.
Anne Hathaway has consistently delivered onscreen delights for over two decades. People love her movies. People love her. And that brief period where it was cool in some circles of the internet to claim otherwise was just an unfortunate blip where everyone forgot to develop a personality for a second.
But the blip is over! We're living in that good golden age where people can walk down the street and say to each other "You know, I've always liked Anne Hathaway" without fear of reprisal or scorn and it's about damn time. Anne Hathaway, actress, superstar, enthusiast, is on the cusp of a great moment in her career, I can just feel it. The guardrails are off, the confidence is high, the talent is overflowing. Anne-ything could happen now and we're all going to reap the benefits of it.
Let's look at the evidence: Anne Hathaway is an established movie star with an Oscar, a dream that came true, and a box office track record in an industry that notoriously doesn't know what to do with talented actresses past 32. So she has little to prove. But we all know Ms. Anne Hathaway is always going to show up with a whole briefcase of proof anyway like she's a special guest star on Law & Order playing an expert witness in a niche field of forensic study. This is the best possible scenario for us, Anne-a-maniacs.
All that being said, the last few years have produced a string of projects that though they absolutely should have worked somehow did not. Ocean's 8 was stacked and Anne Hathaway somehow managed to steal a film starring Sandra Bullock and Carol from the movie Carol as chic burglars who are also married (I may be partially misremembering, but I stand by it.) The Hustle, the remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that starred Hathaway in the Michael Caine role, was an inspired choice and did she eat it up? Folks, you know she did. But somehow the fizz just wasn't there.
She was phenomenal in Colossal; she was very committed in Serenity; she was underutilized in Dark Water. Most recently, she starred in a COVID-lockdown movie that seemed like it might be fun but, y'know, we were all different people then. (Also, I think we just have to let everyone's COVID projects exist in their own separate category. Malcolm & Marie, the one where Bette Midler was ranting about politics in a police station, Audra McDonald as a zombie doctor? Sure, sure; congratulations all around.)
She's putting in the work but she's due for a career pivot, an expansion, a refocusing. She needs to work with Yorgos or Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Something that can deftly capture her particular sparkle.
For now we have to WeCrashed, the new AppleTV+ limited series chronicling the rise and fall of WeWork founder Jordan Neumann and his wife, Rebekah. Hathaway is Rebecca, letting vocal inflection and an air of barely contained rage do transformational character work. Jordan is played by Jared Leto, nearly unrecognizable under prosthetics and a wig. When I first saw the trailer for this limited series, part of our current glut of scammer porn, I was first surprised then delighted by the casting. If there's one thing that Anne Jacqueline Hathaway and Jordan Catalano are going to do, it's give us acting choices. Indeed, I'd be hard-pressed to think of two actors who better exemplify the two sides of absolutely going for it.
Hathaway has an innate understanding of camp, she knows when to turn her performances up to an 11 but, crucially, she knows how to dial them back to a sensible 9.5. She's always on full-blast but it's never insufferable. She's a performer who is acutely aware of the enjoyment of the audience. Leto is more the full boar type, going huge on and off camera, wearing Jeffrey Tambor drag in House of Gucci, reportedly terrorizing Viola Davis on the set of Suicide Squad. It can be a lot. Sometimes it's marvelous; sometimes it seems effortful.
In WeCrashed, the obvious effort actually helps the characterization, as Jordan Neumann starts off as a desperate "serial entrepreneur" and alternately blusters and sweet talks his way into success. Leto is compelling in the series but Hathaway is the real draw. A character written on the razor's edge of dark comedy and true life schadenfreude, she's not given quite as much runway as Amanda Seyfried gets playing Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout, but Hathaway works magic with what she has.
We meet Rebekah as a frustrated Upper East Side yoga instructor and bitter lesser cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow and watch her become Jordan's muse and de facto manager. Throughout it all, Hathaway is incredible, letting micro-expressions and tiny odd pronunciations or even just a particularly languorous walk tell us everything we need to know. It's the kind of part that in lesser hands could either barely make an impact or verge on parody, but here it's perfect. Never boring, always inventive, going for broke.
This is the promise of the Hathaway Golden Age we're entering. The RenAnnessance, if you will. This is a prestige actress with the freedom to pick projects that interest her and the skills to prove to us why that interest was deserved. WeCrashed is a worthy vehicle for her talents though it isn't exactly a showcase. But every single second she's on screen is deeply fascinating. And, more than that, entertaining.
That's what it's all about here in the Anne-nimal Kingdom. This is someone who threw herself wholeheartedly into the most thankless job in Hollywood, hosting the Oscars, with the absolute worst co-host, and walked away with her dignity. This is someone who not only beat Kelly Clarkson at her own Kellyoke game but came in on pitch, in tune, and full voice.
This is a performer who, it seems at least, is having a great time being herself--talented, funny, always giving at least a 9.5 but willing to turn it up to an 11 in a heartbeat. Fan Hathaways, we're eating good!
Cover image: Getty
Editorial assistant: Sean Simon